It Starts With a Hello
Recently, I walked into a men’s shoe shop in Abuja to get me a pair of loafers I could use casually and for work. The first thing I noticed when the elderly man welcomed me in was his broken tooth. He smiled hugely and offered me a sit. This kind of behaviour is typical if you go the market often.
What was not typical was that we spent almost 15 minutes making small talk about everything else but business. We talked about the weather and ended up talking about men’s fashion in general. What I found interesting was his deep understanding of men’s fashion, particularly shoes. But he never once asked me to try on any random shoe as most retailers do.
After our short chat, he said something in the line of, “well, it seems you are looking for a soft comfortable shoe you can wear every day for any occasion. I have X, Y, Z options that are below N20000. I think you will like them.”
He then proceeded to bring them out for me to try. Sure enough, I found a pair I liked and bought it at N14000, N4000 above my budget. But I was happy to pay. I felt he understood me. And most importantly, he cared.
This is the effect a simple engaging conversation can have on your customers.
So how will you be using simple conversations to get inside your customer’s head? Read on…
The Advantage of SMEs
As a small business owner, you have the advantage of being at the forefront of your business. You engage with your customers directly. You are able to get undiluted feedback from your customers, your staff, and any other parties involved such as your suppliers.
As your business grows, you tend to lose personal contact with your customers as you spread yourself to keep up with business expansion. It is essential that you find a way to maintain a healthy, direct, and personal relationship with your customers.
Keep Them Talking
There is a reason social media algorithms use the term ‘engagement’ to promote posts to a wider audience. When people interact with a post they like, they are more likely to engage with the post by sharing with colleagues, friends and family.
The same thing applies with your business. When you interact with your customers one-on-one and they like you and what you represent, they are more likely to recommend you to anyone looking for your products or services even if it is not as good as that of your competitor’s. That personal connection goes a long way to cementing a relationship.
The best customer service begins with a genuinely deep desire to satisfy the customer’s needs.
It is not about you and it should never be. It is always about the customer. Think of that customer in front of you, not all your customers. Just the one in your DM, your meeting room, or standing in your shop.
By the time the customer or client reaches out to you, they are already interested. Sometimes people just need a little push to buy. And that responsibility falls squarely on you.
This is not to say that you should push as hard as you can in order to close a sale. No! It could backfire.
In most cases, when people hesitate to make a purchase, it is because they:
- Have unanswered questions
- Need more information
- Do not understand what you’re selling
- Want something else
- Cannot afford it
- Don’t trust you (personally) or the product you’re selling
As an entrepreneur, learning these little fears and hopes in people will give you the ability to serve your customers better. A great customer service coupled with a quality product/service will always beat any marketing gimmicks and how-to lists you will ever implement. These two alone can sustain your business forever.
Unfortunately, maintaining a consistent quality customer service is something many businesses lack. They start strong, enjoy a little success, take it for granted, and slack off. Soon, the business fails. The reason for this could be traced back to the absence of a genuinely deep desire to satisfy the customer.
The only way to truly understand your customers’ need (desires, fears, and hopes) is by having a simple one-on-one conversation with them. This has proven successful over and over again.
How to Make Your Customers Open Up to You
This section is not a way to trick your customers into dishing out personal information. Please, always respect people’s privacy.
This is really about creating a relaxed environment for customers so they feel comfortable talking to you. The ‘talk’ here is more about how you can help them. This part is a bit tricky but with a little practice, anyone can do this. This is the same technique used by therapists. In fact, it is so effective that if you begin to apply it today, in a short period of time you will see significant improvement in your personal and professional relationships.
How to do it?
- Ask open-ended questions
Use open-ended questions to allow the customer to be more expressive. Ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions. For example,
“What do you like/don’t like about XYZ?”
“What aspect of the project would you like us to improve on?”
“How important is this to you?”
Questions like these open up the customer to talk to you. It is very important that you pay attention to the words (mostly adverbs) they use in describing their pain, fears, and hopes.
- Feel their pain and label it
“I feel your pain.”
You probably have said this before when someone tried to express their pain to you. As a salesperson of your business, you need to not only feel their pain but also labelit. Call it out. Say it as it is. Use what they say and feed it back to them. This technique is called mirroring. It is an effective bonding and selling technique.
If the customer talks about how frustrating it is to find a particular product, label it with something along the lines of:
“I know how frustrated you are. It must be tiring trying to find…[Rephrase what they said]”
“As a parent, I know what you mean. It is not easy being a mother (or father) to fast growing kids. You have to buy them new clothes every year. It is expensive and exhaustingkeeping up with the latest fashion trend.”
When you mirror someone’s words (actions, voice tone, body language, etc.) effectively, it is a sign that you are in sync with the person. You can use it to learn how to sell anything to anyone.
- “OMG! Yes!!”
At the end of the conversation, once you have genuinely listened, felt their pain, and labelled it, you will hear them make a comment in the line of,
“OMG! Yes!! You get me.”
That is your queue too close to the sale. Now you can shift the conversation back to business. Make them an offer that takes away their pain. For example, here’s a script you can use. Make it your own to sound natural.
“It seems you didn’t like the [product] you bought from [competition]. I know how frustrating it must be to have spent over [amount]). I’m going to help you solve [the pain]. Consider these [products options]. If you don’t like any of them, I will help you look around for it. Give me your details and I will keep you posted. This is the least I can do to solve [the pain].
Then smile and pause for effects.
Lastly, as I write this post in my comfortable loafers, I leave you with a caution. For all of these to work, you need to genuinely care about your customer. You don’t have to go through the entire phases for every customer. Simply identify you best (or qualified) customers and focus all your energy on them. As the 80/20 rule says, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. Identify your 20%, treat them like royalty, and watch how easily your business grows.